The beginning of another new home and experience
It feels so long since I did my last blog just a week ago. It has been a long week full of new experiences, meeting lots of other international students (I find it strange that I am also in that category- it’s always been someone else!), getting used to my new home and flatmate, experiencing more Finnish culture and trying to get mentally prepared for what is awaiting me as I start in the hospital tomorrow.
I left Tampere at 1.15am on monday morning, sleeping in a cosy cabin which was actually quite comfortable, waking up occasionally when the train stopped at stations as it traveled up the country.
I arrived at Rovaniemi (said Rov-in-e-ay-me) train station at 11.20 and after some time eventually found my student tutor Saija (said Sire-like the formal address for royalty), a 20 year old tourism student with bright pink hair! It was one of those moments when you see each other a few times as you walk around and think “is that them?”. I eventually asked the question and fortunately she said yes. Off to my flat for 3 months I went, being given information about my the next day at school (University). On arrival I hauled my 25kg bag (she took the small one) up two flights of concrete steps to my flat. Upon entering I was greeted by a very compact three bedroom, bathroom and small very empty kitchen flat. My bedroom-basic. 4 pieces of furniture (wardrobe, bed, chair desk and small chest of draws) and to our surprise, lovely large window and no curtains! I think the Lord is teaching me to live basically!
The kitchen-chairs, table, fridge freezer and oven. No curtain, microwave, toaster, kettle, or any of the ‘normal’ appliances. We also had to buy all our kitchen equipment and crockery. It was a little frustrating having to spend so much money kitting out a kitchen we are only using for 3 months.
My flatemate is a girl (or I should say lady) called Barbara who is also from UWE studying mental health nursing. We are similar in living habits and enjoy the quieter life due to our shift work so we get on well. We eat together and will try to keep this up during placement to keep food costs down, but due to different shift times and places of work this may not be as often as we’d like.
So my week in general has been spent walking/cycling to uni about 4 km from the flat. The first morning it took us all 45 minutes to walk which was much further than we were expecting. We had the normal welcome talk, computer and library sessions, tour of the campus and information about the city, things to do, Finnish laws etc. The rest of our days we spent going into the city centre and buying things for the flat. We also bought some second hand bikes later in the week to help cut down the travel time. Almost every exchange student bought one so there was little, or no choice. Most bikes have something wrong with them- problematic gears or brakes, rusty, strange cluncking when cycling etc. But it’s all part of being an exchange student! It was a late decision for us because we won’t be travelling to the university everyday like the other students. I am in the hospital right next door and Barbara will be travelling out of the city to the psychiatric hospital. Even though it was painful to spend even more money it has been worth it (but our bottoms are very sore!).
Of course as students we have been out to experience a Finnish club so seen how Finns party and we had our own exchange student gathering. The gathering was the first chance we’d all had to really meet each other and chat. It was a good time and I met lots of lovely people. Most students are either German or French and study either Business or Tourism. Everyone speaks English which is odd when there are only 4 english students out of 60 exchange students, but great for us :). There are people from the countries already mentioned, Slovakia, Czech Republic, China, Austria, Spain, America, Belgium and Holland doing one of the following courses, the two already mentioned, nursing, physiotherapy, forestry and IT. We were able to taste a Finnish delicacy Karelian Piirakkaa, small rice pies. They are eaten hot as they are, with butter or butter and cooked egg.
We had a couple of games which were fun and the rest of the evening we all got to know each other. Mostly the same questions were asked- country, study, why exchange, differences between cultures, family, travelling etc.
We also ventured to a club where the student union put on a few games and had a stand-up comedian who performed in both English and Finnish. The club was a few rooms, not as packed as Uk clubs, which was nice, and music was both English and Finnish. One of the most noticeable changes in the Finns was that even though they may say they are quiet people, they certainly know how to drink and party!
With our free time at the weekend, we (Barbara, myself and some of our new friends) took the opportunity to go to a museum, local market and have another late night hoping to see the Norther Lights (sadly unsuccessful). The Arkticum Museum showed exhibitions about the Arctic circle, it’s environment, the people, animals etc and Finnish history over the past 100 years, their wars, culture, changes, historical clothing etc. The local market had many tables with hand made items, mostly hats, gloves and scarves made from wool, but also local foods and jewelry. Their hot food selection was quite different from the Uk. Where we tend to go for the burger/hot dog/ pig roast option, at this market they had Grilled salmon with veg, fish soup and meat soup. I went for the salmon which was a goooooooood choice!
A few facts about Rovaniemi and Lapland:
- It is one of the biggest cities in Europe at a size of 3000 square miles, though it’s population is only 61,000.
- It is the gateway to Lapland and official city of Santa Claus
- Finnish and Swedish are the official languages though only 5% of people speak Swedish as their first language
- Tourism and Forestry are the two biggest industries, followed by mining
- Sami ( said Sarmi) are Laplands indigenous people but only number 1800.
- There are 180,000 people in Lapland and enough reindeer to have one each!
- The highest temperatures in the summer can be between 25 and 30 degrees
- The lowest temperature in the winter can get down to -30 to -40, the lowest on record in 1999 was -47.5 degrees!
Tomorrow I start in the hospital on a Respiratory ward for the next 6 weeks. Wish me luck (pray for me!)